4 December 2018

Tanzania: New NBC Boss Unveils Plan to Get Key Lender Back On Track

Dar es Salaam — National Bank of Commerce (NBC) managing director Theobald Sabi said yesterday that the main task ahead following his recent appointment is to ensure that the financial institution claws it way back to the top league of Tanzania's banking industry.

Currently, the bank is ranked third in terms of assets behind CRDB Bank Plc and NMB; both of which are listed at the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange (DSE).

Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Citizen, Mr Sabi said the bank's strategic plan for 2018-2022 will be the main tool to achieve the targeted outcome.

"We want to make sure that our bank is an important tool for the economy, through supporting industrialisation agenda, which will generally change the lives of Tanzanians," he said.

"I am optimistic that the plan will enable us to become a dominant bank, for providing quality and reliable services to both businesses and the economy," he noted.

Mr Sabi said the five-year strategic plan included incorporating five key areas of interventions, including putting customers first, improvement of services payment, being closer to clients, improving digital services and expanding the bank's market share.

According to the new boss, the main target is to promote savings among Tanzanians, as core basic services, instead of traditional banking behaviour of looking for borrowers first.

He said he wanted to enable the bank to regain its historical status as the top bank, considering that it played a big role in the national economy after Arusha Declaration in 1967 and beyond.

"What we are currently doing is to change the mindset on the way we are doing things, including following clients where they are, instead of clients following us," he explained.

Mr Sabi who becomes the fifth managing director at the bank over the last one decade says he is optimistic he will achieve the targeted outcome, because the bank has enough capital beyond the regulatory requirements.

Mr Sabi explained further that with all the plans ahead, digitalisation of banking services, which will increase the number of people that access banking services through mobile phones and computers, was on top of the agenda.

"We are continuing to invest in digital channels to enable our customers to use the internet, Automated Teller Machines or mobile phones for deposits, withdrawals, transferring cash, making payments without necessarily going to the physical branch," he said.

He noted that this would be achieved through more investments in digital technology as well as increasing the number of branches and agent banking as part of expanding services all over the country.

Investment in digital tools will also enable the bank to reduce costs and improve operational efficiency.

However, Mr Sabi who served as the bank's director of Corporate Baking since 2014 said branches would be opened in places where there are promising economic opportunities for Tanzanians.

Another digital transformation will be applied on the payment systems with the bank being among financial institutions plugged into the government's e-payment gateway.

Other measures will include reducing interest rates for loans, which will attract more borrowing to stimulate economic activities, expplained the new boss.

However, he noted that this will benefit only clients with a clean borrowing history.

In supporting the industrialisation agenda, Mr Sabi said the bank would continue to extend credit to the manufacturing sector in the forms of working capital, trade financing and letter of credit to facilitate importation of goods and services.

He added further that the bank's management will routinely measure the outcomes on a quarterly basis, while building capacities to clients on both business and taxation issues.

NBC Limited, which once suffered a high degree of non-performing loans during the previous years, is currently making efforts to ensure that its NPLs rate is within or behind the regulatory requirements.

Mr Sabi said that NPLs were not the main problem at the financial institution, but rather an industrial challenge, that continued to decrease year after year.

"Our NPLs rate has continued to decline and we will continue with the current speed to reach the target of five per cent set by the Bank of Tanzania (BoT).

He said the high NPLs rate was also affecting the banking sector in East Africa and had eaten into profitability and increased the cost of doing business in the region.

The bank's shareholders are South Africa's Absa Group (with 55 per cent), the government of Tanzania (30 per cent) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank (15 per cent).

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